A few weeks ago, I received a text from my Skechers Performance representative asking if I had any interest in running the Rock n Roll Dallas ½ Marathon. My goal for the Spring season was to jump into as many races as possible, within reason, to gain some much needed experience. I had also never raced the 13.1 distance, having skipped over it while preparing for the marathon in January. These things in mind made accepting a free bib to a well organized race a no-brainer.
The week before this race, I ran a 5k PR at Vern’s No Frills 5k in Georgetown, TX in 17:49. The last, real 5k I had run was last July in 19:10, so I was really happy to have skipped over the 18:xx and into the 17 minute range. This let me know that I’ve got some wheels, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to extend that speed out to a respectable long distance yet.
I drove up to Dallas Saturday afternoon after doing a short, easy run with Ashley. She was getting ready to run the first 30k of the Rogue Trail Series on Sunday, so we both wanted to go slow on this jog. The drive up was uneventful and riddled with traffic (Austin to Dallas is about 3 hours, one way) and I arrived at the expo at the Dallas Convention Center at around 3:30. After getting my bib and shirt, I stopped by the Skechers booth for a short visit and headed to the hotel without spending too much time perusing the different displays. I could probably spend all day shopping at a race expo, but this is unnecessary time on my feet for gear and snacks that I really don’t need. For this trip, I booked a hotel a few miles outside of downtown for the sake of saving some money. I figured if I was traveling alone and only making a short stay out of it, finding a place out of the way and comfortable would suffice. After eating a sandwich and laying my stuff out, I put my feet up and spent the rest of the evening reading my book (Right now, I’m reading John Brant’s Duel in the Sun, the story of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar’s battle in the 1982 Boston Marathon).
I woke up at 3:45am on Sunday to get myself ready to go. I showered, sipped on some hotel room coffee, rolled out my legs, and packed up my things. I strapped on my Skechers GoMeb Speed 2s and headed out. When I stepped out the door, I was immediately greeted by the chilly air and gusting winds. After eating a peanut butter sandwich and turning in my keys, I drove to the finish line at Fair Park, where I would take a shuttle to the start. The shuttles started running 3 hours prior to start time, so I spent much of my time camping out in the convention center to stay warm and relaxed. When I got to the starting corrals, I was pleased to see that I was placed in the first non-elite group. Deena Kastor was going after the American Masters record (it turns out that she missed the record by about 7 seconds, but got the 10 mile and 20k records), so I got to line up about 5 rows behind her. Pretty cool.
The race took off and we immediately started grouping to shelter from the wind. The first mile was relatively flat and we went through in 6:03. 2nd mile was still there in 6:04. Then we started to climb and the groups broke apart. From around the 2.5 mile mark until 8 miles, the course is almost constantly climbing hills running northward. The hills, coupled with the 15-20 mph winds out of the north, created an extremely challenging experience for me, both mentally and physically. I felt my hip tightening up, my legs feeling heavy, and my focus began to wane as my times slowed to nearly 6:40/mile. Then, just as I thought I couldn’t do anymore, we turned east out of the wind and then south downhill. My legs began to turn over again, my form returned, and my mental game came back to me. My GoMebs were amazing in this setting, allowing me to churn away some quick miles while keeping my feet protected, almost disappearing on my feet. Today, I have no foot or leg soreness. In hindsight, I’m really glad I toughed it out through those early hills and wind, because it made the descent that much sweet. I started clicking off low 6 minute miles again, slowing only to nurse a brutal side stitch at mile 12, and then closing the last mile in 5:58 (last .18 at 5:29 pace). My official time was 1:22:06, good for 46th out of 9678. Big congrats, also, to Stefanie Slekis (who rocked my world at the Rogue 30k) who came away with a 4th place female finish, not far behind me.
Overall, I’d say that this race a success. I truly felt like I was in the mix with a lot of strong runners, and pushed through some really tough patches to finish well. For the first time in my running life, I’m starting to see 5:xx/mile paces on my watch and NOT freaking out. This is new. It’s hard to comprehend, but I’m getting faster, and I’ll continue to get faster so long as I stay focused and healthy. Huge thanks to Skechers Performance, Rogue Running, and Coach Steve Sisson for all the support you provide to me. Next race: Statesman Capitol 10,000, April 6th.